Want more Thailand travel tips?
Other Good Stuff
I’m not a big island person. Living in Thailand, I always like the idea of heading down to the Thai islands. They’re so close! And beautiful! And a relatively affordable beach holiday!
In reality, while they are close and beautiful, it always seems to take longer to actually get onto the island itself (and often involves more modes of transportation and costs than you plan for), all the prices on the island are, naturally, jacked up and there’s sand everywhere. (I know, I know…) In the end, I prefer the mountains of Chiang Mai.
But, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy going down to the islands – I do. For a few days. Last month, soon after arriving back in Thailand, I went to a town outside of Bangkok to visit my boyfriend’s family (still intimidating), Bangkok itself (still hot and humid) and then to the small island of Koh Muk (also spelled Koh Mook) for a little getaway.
After living on several of the Thai islands, my boyfriend wanted to go somewhere he’d never been before and that wasn’t built up with resorts. September is part of the rainy season here in Thailand, and while we knew there would be some clouds and rain, we also knew there would be significantly less crowds and cheaper prices. Add to that a smaller, less developed island (Koh Muk is in Trang Province in the Andaman Sea south of Koh Lanta), and we definitely got a…remote experience.
I’m a strong believer in traveling during the off season, and you always hear about people striving to ‘get off the beaten path’ (a term that annoys me on several levels) but, sometimes, it’s not really worth it. Case in point: showing up on an island where there are only two accessible beaches, about ten other tourists, and rain.
Sometimes places are popular for a reason. Yes, that popularity often creates other problems or hassles, but sometimes getting ‘off the beaten path’ is just plain boring or disappointing.
And sometimes there aren’t a lot of visitors because a place isn’t that nice. Yes, we wanted to be somewhere less developed. Unfortunately, that also meant that the locals themselves were living in broken down homes and piles of waste everywhere. If you’re leaving your everyday life to go enjoy an exotic island for a few days, you probably don’t want to spend your time picking through garbage and old fishing nets.
The food – the food! – though was wonderful. One of my biggest gripes about visiting the Thai islands is the food usually available to visitors is overpriced, generic and bland. Sure, you can still order phad thai, tom yum and green curry, but they always seem to be weaker versions of what the dishes should actually taste like. I have never eaten anywhere else in the south like I did on Koh Muk – hugely in part to our helpful hosts.
For each meal we were served several dishes of various tastes and textures to eat with steamed rice. On the other islands, there tends to be specific places where tourists eat and where locals eat. Here we had the guest house owners cooking everything then sitting down at the table with us. We bought bags of fresh crabs and squid (did you know that they can change colors and spots?? I had never seen squid so fresh (alive) before…and was pretty amazed) in the morning for less than $5 and came back to the guest house to feast. I tried several dishes that I’d never heard of before – a welcome surprise, and difficult to achieve as I’ve made it my mission to try anything and everything. The food was by far the best part of our stay.
Being some of the few tourists on the island, we were also fortunate to be included and gain access to things we would have seen or known about otherwise (like my boyfriend going crabbing). We took the local ferry instead of chartering a long tail boat, we bought durian that was grown on the island, and so delicate and so sweet – not like the stinky kind – that even I ended up eating too much. We were taken on a tour around the island, given the keys to the gust house owners’ motorbike, and chaperoned to the mainland to visit a special teacher who makes traditional, sak yant tattoos.
And the water looked like this:
Here it is again:
In the end however, even though we had some unique experiences, the trip was a bit disappointing. We never got into a relaxing beach vibe since it was stormy and rainy, and Koh Muk was so small that we had seen practically all that we could within the first five hours of arriving on the island. Would I do it again? Probably not. Next month I’ll be heading to one of the country’s largest developed islands in the heat of high season, so we’ll see if I like that any better…or if I should just stick to the mountains.
Have you ever been discouraged after trying to get ‘off the beaten path’ or traveling in an off-season?
Thanks for reading – if you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my RSS feed here.